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Retiree Corner
Feb 06, 2020

Medicare and You

Nancy Olumekor

January 23, 2020

(This article first appeared in the January/February 2020 issue of the American Postal Worker magazine) 

Medicare is health insurance for people 65 and older, people under 65 with certain disabilities, and people of any age with End-Stage Renal Disease.

What is Original Medicare?

Medicare Part A and Part B is referred to as “original” Medicare.

Medicare Part A is hospital insurance. It covers inpatient care in hospitals; it also includes coverage in critical access hospitals and skilled nursing facilities. It covers hospice care and home health care, though you must meet certain conditions to get these benefits. Medicare Part A is free for most people.

Medicare Part B is medical insurance. It covers medically necessary services like doctor’s visits, outpatient care, and other medical services that Part A doesn’t cover, such as lab work and durable medical equipment. Part B also covers many preventive services. Medicare Part B has a standard monthly premium for most people. The 2020 Part B premium is $144.60. People with higher incomes may pay a higher premium.

Original Medicare has deductibles for inpatient hospital stays, medical coverage and coinsurance. Medicare usually pays 80 percent of the Medicare-approved amount for medically-necessary care. The coinsurance is usually 20 percent of the Medicare-approved amount. Original Medicare does not pay for prescription drugs, long-term care, routine dental services, routine vision care, and other services.

Most postal and federal retirees also keep their Federal Employees Health Benefit Plan (FEHB) which covers the co-pays and deductibles that Medicare Parts A and B doesn’t cover. Medicare Parts A and B along with your FEHB plan should keep most out-of-pocket medical costs down.

When Can You Enroll in Medicare Part A and Part B?

There are three (3) possible enrollment periods for Medicare A and B: the Initial Enrollment Period, General Enrollment Period and Special Enrollment Period.

Medicare Initial Enrollment Period (IEP)

If you get Social Security retirement or disability benefits before age 65, the Social Security Administration will automatically enroll you in Medicare Parts A and B the month you turn 65. You’ll get a “Welcome to Medicare” booklet and your Medicare card about 3 months before your 65th birthday.

If you aren’t getting Social Security benefits or Railroad Retirement benefits you will need to enroll in Medicare Parts A and B during your Initial Enrollment Period. This is the period during the seven months surrounding the month you turn 65, when you’re first eligible for Medicare. This period begins 3 months before the month you turn 65, it includes the month you turn 65 and ends 3 months after the month you turn 65.

Medicare General Enrollment Period (GEP)

The General Enrollment Period is the time period from January to March 31 of every year when you can enroll in Medicare Part B for the first time.

If you enroll during the General Enrollment Period your Medicare Part A and B coverage will begin on July 1. In most cases, you’ll have to pay a late enrollment penalty.

Medicare Special Enrollment Period (SEP)

If you are turning 65 or over 65 and you or your spouse is still working and covered by an employer or union group health plan through your or your spouse’s current or active employment, you can enroll in Medicare Part A and B during the Special Enrollment Period. There is usually no late enrollment penalty.

This is the eight (8) month period from the month you retire or the employer/union group health plan ends to enroll in Medicare Parts A and B. There are other circumstances that will allow you to enroll in Medicare Parts A and B during the Special Enrollment Period.

For additional information, contact the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213 or visit your local Social Security office. You may also go online at socialsecurity.gov.


Jan 21, 2020

John R. Smith, First Retirees Director, Passes Away

January 16, 2020

John R. Smith, former Retirees Department Director, passed away Jan. 11, at the age of 91. Brother Smith (known by most as “JR”) was the first ever director of the Retirees Department. At the time of his retirement from the APWU on May 7, 2005, Brother Smith had served for 12 years in the position.

Brother Smith began his postal and union career in the early 1960s. In 1964, he was elected president of the Dayton (OH) Local of the National Association of Post Office Mail Handlers (NAPOMH), before becoming president of its state organization in 1965. He was elected state president of the National Postal Union (NPU) in 1969 - an industrial union that included all postal crafts, including mail handlers. After the merger that created the APWU in 1971, Brother Smith was appointed as national vice president of the APWU’s Mail Handler Craft (the Mail Handler Division continued for decades in the APWU).

In 1981, Brother Smith returned to Dayton, and served as the president of Dayton Ohio Area Local for 11 years until his appointment as Retirees Director upon the creation of the department in 1993. 

“This has been the most rewarding work,” Smith said when he retired as Retirees Director in 2005. “Helping people to make the most important decisions they have to make in their entire lives ... not only in deciding when to retire, but in helping them make the decisions they will have to make once they have retired.” 

“I’m extremely proud of what the Retirees Department has become,” Smith said in his farewell. “When we look at other unions, we’re doing very well in membership numbers. And the contributions our retirees make to the APWU are outstanding. It’s been a great ride.”

Brother Smith’s contributions to labor and civil rights went far beyond just his APWU career. In April 1994, he traveled to South Africa with six other APWU officers as part of an 89-member AFL-CIO delegation to observe the first free and fair election in the country. The delegation observed the polls in the three-day election that resulted in Nelson Mandela winning the Presidency.

“John R. Smith was a man of God with a voice of authority who made a positive difference in so many lives.  He believed in family first and was a friend, mentor, advisor counselor, and consultant to many,” said Legislative & Political Director Judy Beard, who joined Smith in the delegation to South Africa in 1994. “When he retired from his position as National Retiree Director, he left me with these words of wisdom: ‘stay in the fight for social justice for we have the power to create a better world.’ John’s union and civil rights work spanned his entire adult life and we will continue to uphold his legacy.”

Brother Smith also cared deeply about his community of Dayton, serving on the city’s Housing Authority Board, Catholic Elementary School Board, Little League Board, and the United Way at Work Committee. He was a Deacon at Corinthian Baptist Church and taught Sunday school.

“To me, JR was a trailblazer. At the time in your life when most people are looking forward to slowing down, JR spent over ten years building the APWU Retirees Department into a resource that would provide life changing information to APWU members and their families,” said Retirees Director Nancy Olumekor. “He encouraged retirees to stay involved in the union by organizing into chapters, to continue to help ourselves, our union and others. JR took risks and succeeded – the Retirees Department is his legacy.”

“On behalf of our entire membership, I offer deep condolences to his family,” President Dimondstein said, “and great appreciation for John R. Smith’s tremendous contributions to the well being of postal and all workers.”

Brother Smith was married for 62 years to Mrs. Ida B. Smith, who passed in Sept. 2014. He is survived by his three adult children – Darryl Smith, Cheryl Brown, and Mark Smith – their spouses, numerous grandchildren, relatives and friends.


Dec 06, 2019

APWU Retirees Still Fighting for Justice

Nancy Olumekor

November 20, 2019

(This article first appeared in the November/December 2019 issue of the American Postal Worker magazine) â€‹

COLA 2020

Is 1.6 percent a fair Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) for Seniors?

It is projected that the average increase in benefits will be $24 and that the average Medicare B premium will increase by $8, with a net COLA of $16 per month for most seniors.

Retirees are short-changed because their COLA is calculated using the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) instead of the Consumer Price Index for the Elderly (CPI-E). Using CPI-W short-changes the seniors by not considering the spending habits of elders. Elders have higher costs for things such as health care and housing, while urban and clerical workers have higher costs related to expenses such as education, clothing, and transportation.

We must enlist everyone we can to help us stop this unfair calculation. It is incumbent upon retirees to continue to work to achieve a fair COLA, by pushing Congress to pass legislation that will calculate the COLA based on CPI-E. Currently in Congress there are several pending bills that include using the CPI-E to ensure a more accurate adjustment. Beginning in January 2019, Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Representative John Larson (D-CT-1) introduced S. 269 and H.R. 860 the Social Security 2100 Act, which increases benefits and institutes the CPI-E. In February 2019, The Social Security Expansion Act, S. 478 and H.R. 1170, was introduced by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Representative Peter DeFazio (D-OR- 4). The legislation expands Social Security benefits by using CPI-E to calculate a more accurate COLA, as well as other improvements.

The Fair COLA for Seniors Act H.R. 1533 introduced by Representative John Garamendi (D-CA-3) in March 2019, will “provide for cost-of-living increases for certain federal benefits programs based on increases in the Consumer Price Index for the elderly.”

H.R. 2654 was introduced in May 2019 by Representative Linda Sanchez (D-CA-38) as the Strengthening Social Security Act of 2019, which also adopts the CPI-E as “the applicable Consumer Price Index for Elderly Consumers,” along with other improved benefits.

Make an Action Plan

  1. Make a list of your family, neighbors, friends and other like-minded registered voters and educate to them on the importance of using the CPI-E when calculating the COLA for the elderly.
  2. Plan a day of action, for CPI-E. That could be writing letters and postcards or making telephone calls to Capitol Hill, 202-224-3121.
  3. Ask your representatives to cosponsor legislation on CPI-E and to help move the bill along.
  4. Explain why this legislation is important to you, your family and your community.
  5. Share your story and your affiliations with other constituency groups such as veterans, church or community organizations, and the union.
  6. Establish a relationship with your representative and thank them for supporting our issues.

Resources: National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare


Thank You!

First, I thank our veterans and all of our active military personnel for their service on behalf of all of us.

It has been an honor and a privilege to serve the membership of the APWU over the past three years. Thank you for re-electing and continuing to support me in the true spirit of unionism. I extend special thanks to those of you who offered words of encouragement of any kind to me. I cannot do this work without your support!

As I look back over the past three years, I am mindful of all of the friends, families and loved ones APWU members and retirees have lost – many great unionists who built this union and without their great work we would not be here. In closing, I wish each of you Happy Holidays, Good Health and Happiness in the New Year. In Solidarity.


Sep 18, 2019

USPS Retiree Quarterly Newsletter: "Hit" or "Miss"

Nancy Olumekor

September 12, 2019

 (This article first appeared in the September/October 2019 issue of the American Postal Worker magazine) 

The USPS Retiree Quarterly Newsletter Spring 2019 issue, the first mailed to all USPS retirees, was both a “Hit” and a “Miss.” The “Hit” was that we now know that the USPS can reach out to all USPS retirees by mail at their current addresses (unless retiree says not to contact). The “Miss” was that the first issue included disturbing misinformation regarding Medicare Advantage Plans (MAP) and Federal Employee Health Benefits Plans (FEHB).

The USPS Retiree Quarterly Newsletter did not include the bold warning to SUSPEND your FEHB coverage, do not cancel your FEHB coverage, if you decide to enroll in a Medicare Advantage Plan.

When FEHB coverage is suspended to enroll in MAP, retirees can always re-enroll in a FEHB plan. However, if a FEHB plan is cancelled to enroll in MAP, retirees are out of FEHB forever. If a retiree decided to switch back to traditional Medicare Part B from MAP and have cancelled their FEHB plan, there will be no FEHB plan available to cover those remaining balances of co-pays, deductible and other medical expenses not paid by Medicare Part B.

Medicare “DIS” Advantage Plan

Why is the USPS promoting MAP in newsletters and in webinars that do not feature all FEHB plans?

Could it be that the USPS is looking to use the retiree health benefits to generate savings by any means? When a retiree cancels their FEHB coverage and enrolls in Medicare Advantage Plan, that’s one less premium for the USPS to pay in the future – because you can’t come back to FEHB.

The USPS shared the above “bold warning” with those retirees who received their monthly USPS Retiree Newsletter to suspend instead of cancelling their FEHB plan when enrolling in MAP, but did not include the warning in the hard copy quarterly newsletter mailed to retirees. Why not? The answer given to APWU was that the information was covered in a webinar.

APWU reminded management that we are retired postal workers and many retirees prefer to receive hard-copies in their mailbox; many retirees are not tech-savvy and may not know how to participate in a webinar, or don’t check their emails regularly (if they have email). We emphasized that the information in the hard-copy newsletter should be at least as comprehensive as the e-newsletter.

We don’t know whether improvements will result from our discussion. Open Season is here. Our message to retirees is to approach any changes with CAUTION. Read, discuss with your family, and ask questions before you make any decisions affecting your health benefits.


Tell Congress to Pass the Social Security Fairness Act

Now that the 116th Congress is back in session, we continue to work to ensure that this Congress passes The Social Security Fairness Act – H.R. 141 and S. 521 – to repeal the Windfall Elimination Provisions (WEP) and the Government Pension Offset (GPO).

The WEP/GPO are penalties imposed on CSRS annuitants, in 1983 and 1977 respectively, who worked more than one job and paid into CSRS as well as Social Security. The WEP adversely affected retirees who receive a CSRS pension and also qualify for Social Security benefits from other employment by denying an equitable benefit for those Social Security contributions.

The Congressional Research Service published a Social Security report indicating that as of December 2017, more than 1.8 million Social Security beneficiaries were affected by the WEP, which included 1,687,542 retirees. Reach out to both the House and the Senate on both sides of the aisle – by telephone, email, mail, or in person and ask them to support H.R. 141 and S. 521, The Social Security Fairness Act.


Aug 06, 2019

The APWU Retirees Department is mourning the sudden loss of Elizabeth “Beth” Bobo (Cramer), Southern APWU Retiree Delegate to the National Convention.

Beth served as the Southern Region Retiree Delegate to the APWU National Convention since 1999. Beth, a Navy veteran, retired on disability from the USPS over 20 years ago at the age of 40. For many years, Beth worked at the Schaumburg, IL Post Office before relocating to Florida. In Florida, Beth was an officer and active member of the Southwest Florida Area Local for many years.

On April 16 and 17, Beth attended the Florida State Retirees Spring Seminar, where she shared her stories of leafletting during the 2019 National Tax Day of Action and encouraged her neighbors to support postal worker issues. She requested additional tax day flyers to continue spreading the word.

Beth could be seen and heard at every APWU National Convention speaking at the microphones. She loved the APWU and she loved being a voice for retirees and anyone who needed a voice.

Beth’s many years of hard work and dedication to APWU and the APWU Retirees Department is recognized, acknowledged and appreciated by all who knew her. We will miss her voice, and evidence of her work and her spirit will be remembered by all whom she touched.

Her family has requested that if you wish to make any donation, please make it to the American Heart Association in memory of Elizabeth “Beth” Bobo.


Tell Congress to Pass the Social Security Fairness Act and Social Security Expansion Act NOW!

During this 116th session of Congress, The Social Security Fairness Act (H.R. 141 and S. 521), along with the Social Security Expansion Act (S. 478 and H.R. 1170) must be passed by both houses of Congress.

The Social Security Fairness Act would repeal the Windfall Elimination Provisions (WEP) and the Government Pension Offset (GPO). The Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) adversely affects those receiving a Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) pension while also qualifying for Social Security benefits from other employment. The Government Pension Offset (GPO) reduces Social Security benefits to our dependents, including spouses or widows, by two-thirds if they are currently receiving a retirement or disability pension based on our prior government employment, during which we did not pay into Social Security.

There are still millions of CSRS annuitants watching and waiting for Congress to pass legislation to repeal the WEP and GPO in order to provide us with a fair return on our investment in the Social Security system. Many CSRS annuitants worked other jobs in order to increase their Social Security benefits.

The Social Security Expansion Act, S. 478 and H.R. 1170, as reported by the Legislative Department, would lift the earnings cap on Social Security taxes currently in place for all incomes over $250,000. Lifting the cap would result in extending the solvency of Social Security. In addition, low-income earners would see an increase in their Social Security benefits by $1,300/year.

Cost-of-Living Adjustments (COLAs) would be calculated by using the Consumer Price Index for the Elderly (CPIE), which would yield a fairer cost of living increase than the current way of calculation.

Continue to write letters or postcards and call Capitol Hill at 1-202-224-3121 to speak to your member of Congress!


Jan 07, 2015

Postal Retirement Benefits

The APWU and other federal unions have worked with Congress for many decades to ensure retirement income security for employees who spend their careers in government service.

Today, most postal employees are eligible to participate in one of two federal retirement benefit programs:

The Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS), which provides benefits for most workers hired before 1984.

The Federal Employee Retirement System (FERS), which covers all workers hired after 1984.

Though FERS pays a smaller monthly benefit than CSRS, FERS retirees also receive Social Security and Thrift Savings Plan payments.

Whichever plan you are enrolled in, your retirement benefits are administered by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM).

Regardless of how many more years you may work before retirement, it's a good idea to understand all the benefits you earn and to plan early.

For complete information about the CSRS and FERS, visit OPM's Federal Retirement Programs Web site, www.opm.gov/retire/index.asp, or visit your USPS personnel office.


Jan 06, 2015

Medicare Enrollment

General enrollment in Medicare is open from Jan. 1 through March 31, but don’t confuse the general enrollment period with your eligibility enrollment period: You are eligible to enroll in Medicare three months before you turn 65, the month of your 65th birthday, and three months after the month you turn 65.

You will be penalized if you enroll outside of your eligibility period and your options to enroll will be limited.

If you miss your eligibility window, you may sign up only during the general enrollment period at the beginning of the year, with few exceptions. And, if Social Security records reflect that you have enrolled late, you will be required to pay a penalty in addition to the monthly premium. The penalty for enrolling late is 10 percent for each year you delay enrollment in Medicare Part B.

For most USPS retirees, the premium for Medicare Part B for 2015 is $104.90. Medicare B covers medically-necessary services from doctors and other health care providers, ambulance services, outpatient care, home health care, and some preventative services. For a complete list of covered services, visit www.Medicare.gov.

Medicare Part A covers hospitalization and it’s free because you paid for it while you worked for the Postal Service. You are eligible for Medicare Part A if you are over 65, under 65 with certain disabilities, or currently receiving Social Security benefits. If you are covered by the Federal Employees Health Benefits Plan (FEHBP) you will not be penalized if you sign-up for Medicare Part A after age 65.

The questions asked most frequently about Medicare are:

How do I enroll? - You can sign up for Medicare by visiting your local Social Security office or by completing an online application at www.socialsecurity.gov. You may also call to request an appointment to enroll by phone by calling 1-800-772-1213; TTY/TDD: 1-877-486-2048.

How do I make the payment for Medicare Part B? - There is a range of options for paying Medicare premiums. You may pay by automatic bill payment through your bank account (also known as Medicare Easy Pay), by check, or the payments may be withheld from your Social Security or annuity benefit. Be clear with Social Security on the payment method you select to avoid a delay in processing your first payments.

Should I keep my Federal Employee Health Benefits Plan and enroll in Medicare Parts A and B as well? - That’s a personal decision; when weighing your options, you should consider your usage of medical services, your ability to pay, and the penalty for enrolling late in Medicare Part B. When you retain your FEHB Plan and enroll in Medicare A and B, Medicare will be your primary payer and your FEHB Plan will cover most of the difference. APWU retirees who are in the APWU Health Plan have expressed appreciation for having both Medicare and our health plan. If you have a FEHB plan other than APWU, you should contact your FEHB plan for advice.

When does Medicare take effect? The date coverage begins depends on when you enrolled. If you enrolled during your 65th birthday enrollment period, coverage starts the first day of your birth month, unless your birthday is on the first day of the month; if your birthday is on the first day of the month, the coverage starts on the prior month. If you enrolled the month after your 65th, there is a delay of one month for each month you delay in getting coverage after turning 65. For example, if you wait one month after your birth month to sign up, coverage will start two months after you sign up. Finally, if you sign up during the general enrollment period, coverage starts on July 1 of that year.

For more information about Medicare, call 1-800-772-1213 or visit www.Medicare.gov.


Jan 08, 2014
APWU

About the APWU Retirees Department

The APWU Retirees Department is the voice of retired APWU members — within the union and on Capitol Hill.

Retirees helped build the union as we fought for — and won — better wages, improved benefits, and the right to be treated with dignity and respect.

Now, the union fights for retirees as Congress makes budget and policy decisions that affect our pensions and healthcare coverage, and that impact our lives in a profound way. The Retirees Department seeks to organize retired APWU members to join in these struggles.

The department also provides members with opportunities to see old friends — and make new ones— by participating in the activities of APWU Retiree Chapters and other union events.

The APWU Retirees Department was established in 1992 by delegates to the union’s 11th Biennial National Convention. Our goal was to bring retirees back into the union family while advancing the objectives of retired and active union members. The creation of the department required the passage of an amendment to the APWU Constitution and Bylaws, approved by more than two-thirds of voting delegates.

At subsequent conventions, delegates amended the constitution to strengthen the voice of retirees in union affairs, voting to allow retirees to elect five regional Retirees National Convention Delegates; to improve funding of retiree chapters, and to allow members of the APWU Retirees Department to elect the department director, beginning with the 2007 election of national officers.

Currently, there are more than 80,000 APWU Retirees Department members, 39local Retiree chapters, and four state chapters.


Jul 07, 2011
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Jul 07, 2011
Retirement Annuity Calculation Use one of the worksheets below to develop an estimation of your retirement annuity.


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